Ascension Day

The Collect

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

On this Ascension Day, may we honor and proclaim the Lord Jesus who is presently reigning from the Father’s right hand, and may we rest and trust in His work on our behalf as our Advocate and Great High Priest.

Bound By So Many Favors

Calvin’s Prayer ending his lecture on Jeremiah 10:1-6:

Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast made heaven and earth for our sake, and hast testified by thy servant Moses, that the sun, as well as the moon, to which foolish heathens ascribe divinity, are to be serviceable to us, and that we are to use them as though they were our servants,- O grant that we may, by thy so many blessings, have our minds raised upwards and contemplate thy true glory, so that we may faithfully worship thee only, and surrender ourselves so entirely to thee, that while we enjoy the benefits derived from all the stars, and also from the earth, we may know that we are bound to thee by so many favours, in order that we may be more and more roused to attend to what is just and right, and thus endeavour to glorify on earth thy name, that we may at length enjoy that blessed glory which has been provided for us by Christ Jesus our Lord. -Amen.

-John Calvin, Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and Lamentations.

Calvin on Bringing Down Haughtiness

It is God that worketh. This is the true engine for bringing down all haughtiness- this the sword for putting an end to all pride, when we are taught that we are utterly nothing, and can do nothing, except through the grace of God alone. I mean supernatural grace, which comes forth from the spirit of regeneration. For, considered as men, we already are, and live and move in God (Acts xvii. 28.) But Paul reasons here as to a kind of movement different from that universal one…

John Calvin, on Philippians 2.13

Notes- Philippians 2:12-13

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Paul commands us to work out our salvation with “fear and trembling,” not because we are terrified at the prospect of standing before God having failed to become “blameless and innocent” (v. 15); rather, “fear and trembling” refers to an awe of God’s presence and working in us. If we are working out our salvation- if our new birth is being carried out in our lives, toward its eschatological end- we are assured that God is at work in us.

John Murray explains, “The more persistently active we are in working, the more persuaded we may be that all the energizing grace and power is of God.” (Redemption Accomplished and Applied)

The Royal Sign of the Kingdom

In the midst of the fulfisment of the Kingdom stands Christ’s command of universal baptism. This baptism is the royal sign of the richness of the Kingdom at hand. The institution of this sign is preceded by the royal proclamation: “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). Just as John’s baptism had raised questions about his qualifications, so now Christ’s qualification stands in focus. Before the Ascension Christ gives the sign of God to the Church, a sign of particular power through his divine institution and his involvement with the Kingdom.

G.C. Berkouwer, Studies in Dogmatics: The Sacraments, pg. 101

God, High Above All

Thus it is that by a sinner’s own deeds he is himself harmed. Human sloth pretends to long for rest, but what sure rest is there except in the Lord? Luxury would like to be called plenty and abundance; but you are the fullness and unfailing abundance of unfading joy. Prodigality presents a show of liberality; but you are the most lavish giver of all good things. Covetousness desires to possess much; but you are already the possessor of all things. Envy contends that its aim is for excellence; but what is so excellent as you? Anger seeks revenge; but who avenges more justly than you? Fear recoils at the unfamiliar and the sudden changes which threaten things beloved, and is wary for its own security; but what can happen that is unfamiliar or sudden to you? Or who can deprive you of what you love? Where, really, is there unshaken security except with you? Grief languishes for things lost in which desire had taken delight, because it wishes to have nothing taken from it, just as nothing can be taken from you.

Augustine, Confessions, [2.6.13]

The Household of God

The house of my soul is too narrow for you to come in to me; let it be enlarged by you. It is in ruins; restore it. There is much about it which must offend your eyes; I confess and know it. But who will cleanse it? Or, to whom shall I cry but to you? Cleanse me from my secret faults, Lord, and keep back your servant from strange sins. I believe, and therefore I speak. But you know, Lord. Have I not confessed my transgressions to you, my God; and have you not put away the iniquity of my heart? I do not contend in judgment with you, who are the truth itself; and I wouyld not deceive myself, lest my iniquity lie even to itself. I do not, therefore, contend in judgment with you, for “if you, Lord, should mark iniquities, who shall stand?”

– Augustine, Confessions, I.5.6

The soul of him who is in Christ is, as Augustine discusses, the house of God. The people of God are the body of his Christ. In this New Covenant, God makes his dwelling in and among his people. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 5,

 In him the whole building [God’s household] is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

As God builds this household, He must make it into a fit and holy temple. He enlarges the walls, restores the ruins, and cleanses from sin. This is true on both a corporate as well as an individual level. As God regenerates, restores, and cleanses the individual, the people of God corporately are built up- the healing of a broken appendage results in the well being of the whole body, and the restoring of one damaged brick strenthens the whole building. The two are so connected that to distinguish between individual growth of a Christian and the overall strengthening of the Church lacks good sense- one does not happen without the other.

God saves people individual as he saves a people: a New Humanity, a Body, and Temple of the Lord. When you are saved, you are not only saved from sin, you are saved to Christ,  and therefore saved to the body of Christ. 

 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (I Corinthians 12.12-14)

By grace, God builds up his people, a sinful people who have been cleansed by the blood of the Christ. He has cleansed us, and continues to cleanse us by his means of grace. We are saved, and continually being saved. United to Christ, and nourished by his body and blood.

Holy Father, we are your people, and are becoming your holy temple. By your grace you make your dwelling in us, the Holy One living among sinful men. And we see and know our sinfulness, and yet you see and know even deeper into our hearts than we do. Make us a holy people for you, O Lord. Enlarge us, restore us, purify us, for without your working in us, we can do nothing. Thank you for you means of grace that strengthen and uphold us. Continue your work in us and uphold your promises to us, that your Name may be glorified in our hearts and among the nations. In the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and your Holy Spirit. Amen.